Russia's TV Wars

Pulling the plug on TV-6 was a sad day for Vladimir Putin's Russia. Not only did this event hurt the cause of freedom of speech, but the rule of law here has been deeply wounded and President Putin has squandered the goodwill of the very people in the West he seeks to emulate.

Closing TV-6 in many ways reflects what has gone wrong in Russia since 1991. Many people share the blame for the failures that have occurred since communism's collapses. Indeed, the types of characters involved in TV-6's closure have been with us since then. Greed, power, position, and egos have beset the electronic media as they have everything else in the postcommunist era. The heavy-handed closures of NTV and TV-6 are merely two of the best examples of this country's halting leap toward normality, and both closures reveal Putin's selective approach to restructuring Russia.

Emotions about this event, however, are more in evidence than reasoned thoughts. The idea of ``freedom of speech'' has indeed suffered a set back, but a return to Soviet era thought control is not in the offing. For both Russia's government and its market place of ideas are continuing to discover what a free media actually means.

Some in government think that a ``free media'' should only champion and praise the ruling elite. Some rich ``New Russians'' see the media as a means for pushing their personal agendas at the expense of society's interests, making themselves even wealthier. Much of the TV-6 affair, indeed, was about money. Whoever secures the stations's license when it is opened for renewal in late March can, if he or she puts in a professional management, look forward to big revenues from advertising. This golden nest egg may have been part of the Kremlin's thinking about the station and its ownership all along.